A year after the state passed legislation requiring schools to develop antibullying plans and train staff and students to report anything that could be incidents of bullying, Milton's top school official said the number of reported incidents has increased.
Across the school district, parents reported 12 incidents, staff reported 16 cases, and students reported 29 cases for a total of 57 reported incidents, according to school Superintendent Mary Gormley.
After investigation and interviews were conducted of those 57 cases, 11 were found to be bullying, Gormley said. None of these cases resulted in criminal charges, she said.
Three incidents were reported on the school district’s hotline and e-mail for anonymous reporting.
A year after the law has been implemented, Gormley said it has been effective in creating an atmosphere whereby if students or teachers see something that could be bullying, it’s reported.
“There is value in this law,” said Gormley in an interview. “The value for me is that teachers, support staff, and students, everybody, has to recognize bullying and speak up when they see it.”
She said the biggest difference the law has made is that bystanders are being told they have a responsibility to report bullying.
Greg Hall, a psychology professor at Bentley University, hosted a program this past school year at every Milton public school and held an evening session with parents called “One Goal, One Community: Moving beyond bullying and empowering for life.”
Identified student leaders in the school, along with Hall’s college students, led the program; it aims to create a culture in the schools where students are committed to reject bullying, Hall said.
He said the program refers to bystanders as enablers.
“One of our goals is to help [bystanders] understand that even though they’re not active participants, just observing and the silence allows the bullying to continue,” Hall said in an interview. “One of the main goals is to reach this group of individuals; if we can do that successfully, we stand a good change of reducing bullying.”
He said he is familiar with the state legislation passed in May 2010 and antibullying legislation across the country.
Hall said he gives the law a “mixed review.” He said it has been effective in bringing bullying to the forefront of the adult community and highlights the importance of addressing bullying, but it is an unfunded mandate that has been thrust on school administrators.
In order to allow for better communication between staff members and to have a more integrated reporting system, Gormley said the school district would be purchasing software for online reporting.
She said the system would allow for all of a student’s teachers to be made aware if a student had been involved in a possible bullying incident, either as an aggressor or a target.
“This isn’t an isolated incident; it impacts the student before school and after school,” said Gormley. “This information is going to assure us that everyone involved with that student is aware of the situation or potential situation.”
Sarah Favot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.